Early forecasts point to a reduced 1999 global cereal output. Although above the average of the past five years, it would not be sufficient to meet expected consumption requirements in 1999/2000 and global cereal reserves will have to be drawn down.
A major humanitarian emergency has unfolded in Europe where the unprecedented exodus of refugees from the Kosovo Province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia calls for continued international assistance on a large scale in the coming months. Serious food supply problems persist in several countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the CIS (see box on Food Emergencies on page 4).
FAO's first forecast of world cereal production in 1999 is 1 850 million tonnes, about 1.5 percent below 1998. Wheat output is forecast at 580 million tonnes, 3 percent down from 1998, that of coarse grains at 890 million tonnes, about 2 percent down, while the rice crop (milled basis) is tentatively forecast to recover to 380 million tonnes.
FAO's latest forecast of world trade in cereals in 1998/99 is 206 million tonnes, up slightly since the last report but still some 7 million tonnes below the previous year's volume. Reduced wheat and rice imports would more than offset increased trade in coarse grains.
Total food aid shipments of cereals in 1998/99 are forecast at 9 million tonnes, some 3 million tonnes up from the previous year reflecting greater availability of grain supplies among the major donors combined with higher food aid requirements.
International wheat and coarse grains prices strengthened in late March, but remained well below those at the same time last year. Rice prices remain under downward pressure from large exportable supplies and relatively limited import demand.
Cassava production, consumption and trade fell in 1998. Early prospects for 1999 point to a contraction in global output but to a small recovery in Asia, which may lead to some increase in world trade. However, much will depend on price developments for alternative feed components in the major importing countries.
Global milk production is forecast to increase slightly in 1999 but exportable supplies are expected to change little. Average export prices for dairy products weakened in the past two months after a short-lived revival in late 1998 and early 1999.